Inside Out Review

            Pixar has been one of the most heralded studios of our time.  With animated films that find ways to engage adults while still making kids happy, the studio is beloved by the critical community.  I find my relationship with the studio to be a bit less enthusiastic.  I don’t think Pixar has ever made a truly bad film, but none of their films outside their original effort, Toy Story, have truly left a lasting impact on me.  Most of their films are just unique efforts that ultimately don’t stick with me for too long.  The same can be said for their latest effort Inside Out.  The film has many fun and exciting ideas, but it ultimately comes across as a film that doesn’t bring all of these ideas together in such a way that could be considered memorable.

            Inside Out takes place in the mind of a girl on the verge of puberty as the emotions, Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (the American version of The Office’s Phyllis Smith), Anger (Lewis Black), Disgust (Mindy Kaling), and Fear (Bill Hader), try to keep control of her mind.  When Sadness starts acting strangely, Joy and Sadness find themselves separated and must find their way back into the control room of the mind.

            The story in Inside Out is rather complex for a kid’s film.  Most kids should be able to get the storyline, but they will certainly miss out on many of the jokes and subtle nods of life wisdom that come with it.  However, the complexity of the plot allows for some very interesting moments.  A reoccurring joke about a gum commercial will go over the head of most kids but is one of the best jokes you will see in a film this year, and while children will have some sort of attachment to the tragedy of Bing Bong (Richard Kind delivering an incredible voice performance) they won’t get the whole story into what is the most effective storyline in the entire film.  These are just a couple of the mish-mash of ideas that are put into this film, and that’s what this film ultimately is, a mish-mash of admittedly interesting ideas.  The film just never completely comes across as a complete and sturdy product.

            Despite this the ambition and incredible craft work (Michael Giacchino delivers one of his best scores ever and the voice work is all-around great) put into this film are hard to deny.  Inside Out may be a bit of a mess, but some of the parts of the film are some of the best work in film you will see this year.


Jurassic World Review

            If you were a child during the 1990s than Jurassic Park and its admittedly inferior sequels were a major part of your childhood.  Everyone loves dinosaurs, and these films have been the best depictions of dinosaurs we have ever seen on film.  After years of being stuck in development hell, we have finally gotten a third sequel to the 1993 classic in the form of Jurassic World.  Jurassic World is rough around the edges.  The visual effects, which were the main highlight when the series began, are not particularly well used, and some of the characters are paper thin in terms of characterization.  However, director Colin Trevorrow and company have found a way to deliver fan service in a way that not only services the plot but also makes the film memorable on its own right.

            Jurassic World picks up 22 years after the original film as a new park called Jurassic World has been built on the foundations of the old Jurassic Park on Isla Nublar.  The driven manager of the park, Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard bringing a lot more charm than this role deserved), decides to create a genetically modified dinosaur known as the Indominus Rex with input from the park’s geneticist unit.  Unfortunately, the much smarter than anticipated I-Rex tricks the park staff and escapes to cause mass havoc on the park.

            Considering this is an effects heavy film it was an odd choice to have Colin Trevorrow direct the film.  Trevorrow had no experience directing blockbusters and the credits of the film make it clear that it was Brad Bird who helped get Trevorrow this job.  Bird is a great director, but he has always had trouble integrating CGI into his films.  Trevorrow struggles just as much on this film in that department.  Fortunately, the CGI is not bad enough to truly take away from the film, and Trevorrow makes up for it by being just as good as Bird in delivering awe-inspiring set pieces.  Credit also has to be given to Trevorrow and his crafts artists for the incredible world building that is put on display in this film.  This is the dinosaur theme park you have been waiting forever for since you first heard the words Jurassic Park.

            While the film does take a bit to set itself up, the action just never stops when it gets going so you never really have time to think about the plot consistencies or the cast of characters that features very few standouts (Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard at least have enough charisma to make their characters tolerable).  Trevorrow also clearly knows exactly what the audience wants and makes sure to include an homage or two to the original film in practically every other scene.  The doses of nostalgia only get heavier as we get to the final scenes as the film delivers a sequence that is fan service to such an over the top degree that you can’t help but admire the audacity of it.

            Jurassic World will have you feeling like a kid again in a very good way.


Community: Season 6 Review

            For a few seasons now people have wondered whether Communityand showrunner Dan Harmon’s #SixSeasonsAndAMovie campaign would wear on the show’s creative freedom.  Did Community really have enough material to cover six seasons a movie?  Until now the answer has been yes.  However, season six is finally the point in which this show seems to be straining.  There are still some great moments in what is presumably the final season of this wacky show (this show has always known how to do a wicked paintball episode or a fulfilling finale), but the paper thin cast and too much repetition of jokes are a major grind on this season.

            Season six of Community picks up with the study group having been transformed into an improvement group for Greendale.  When Annie (Alison Brie) accidentally forgets a major task, the group is forced to call in help from a safety consultant (Paget Brewster), which unsettles the balance of the study group.

            With Yvette Nicole Brown unexpectedly leaving before the beginning of this season, the mass exodus of cast members in recent seasons was certainly felt this season.  With only six original cast members left, bit players like Dean Pelton (Jim Rash) are allowed to shine in even further expanded roles and problem characters like Chang (Ken Jeong) are finally given some decent material.  However, the ensemble chemistry that made this show so delightful in earlier seasons seems to be non-existent now.  Worsening matters are the additions of Paget Brewster and Keith David as replacement study group members.  Paget Brewster is pretty much playing a party pooper, but the show unfortunately isn’t aware that she is as much of a buzz kill to the viewers as she is to the characters.  Meanwhile, Keith David brings nothing in what should have been another zany character added to an ensemble filled with them.

            The show does have its moments, and that’s especially the case in the final few episodes where “Modern Espionage” (a paintball episode that spoofs Captain America: The Winter Soldier to great effect) and “Emotional Consequences of Broadcast Television” (a great series finale if it happens to be the case that features strong performances from Joel McHale and Alison Brie) emerge as highlights.  However, too often this season the show feels like it’s still trying to find a rhythm, and that should not be happening in what might end up being the final season of a show.

            Season six of Community makes you slightly question whether #SixSeasonsAndAMovie is all worth it.


Entourage Review

            Times are always changing.  That has a lot to do with the negative reception that the new Entouragefilm has received from critics.  Entourage was once a critically acclaimed, Best Comedy Series Emmy nominee that has now become the butt of every critic’s joke over the past week.  That’s not because of a major downgrade in quality, but because we now live in an era of political correctness that did not exist when Entourage first premiered on HBO in 2004.  The misogyny on display during this film is deplorable, and it’s a shame that the one good female character from the show (Constance Zimmer’s Dana Gordon) is reduced to nothing more than a glorified cameo.  However, it’s not like this was a quality that just randomly manifested itself during the film.  It was there from the very beginning, and the obsession over the misogyny of the film from most critics actually causes some really good qualities from this film to be ignored.  Entouragehas way too many storylines going on, but what works, really works, as Johnny Drama and Ari Gold remain the iconic characters that they were on the show.

            Entourage picks up with Vincent Chase (Adrien Grenier) convincing Ari (Jeremy Piven), Vinny’s former agent turned studio head, to give him his next big feature as his directorial debut.  Problems arise when Vinny goes over budget and the team needs to convince a wealthy heir (an unrecognizable, adult form Haley Joel Osment) to give them the money despite his disdain for Drama (Kevin Dillon).  This is a film that you can go into without watching the TV show it is based off of, but you will be missing a lot of inside jokes and an already established affection for some of the characters.

            At it’s best Entourage was a fantastic satire of Hollywood with scene stealing performances from Jeremy Piven and Kevin Dillon.  Unfortunately, in terms of the first part, the movie isn’t as deft as the series could be at times.  The Hollywood on display here is rather ridiculous, which doesn’t fall in line much with the show that once predicted Avatar in hilarious fashion with its James Cameron’s Aquaman arc.  However, the movie more than delivers on the second point.  The film puts Piven and Dillon in positions where they can really go with it with their characters.  Piven’s Ari gets an extended tirade that is up there as one of his best, while Dillon’s Drama gets an ending that the whole series has been seemingly leading to.  Even some of the more problematic characters on the show (like Turtle) get some good material.

            Unfortunately, not all of the plotlines work.  Vinny’s attempt to direct a film feels rather lifeless thanks to a performance from Adrian Grenier that just doesn’t work, and the less said the better about E’s problems during the course of the film.  It’s most likely where all of the negativity towards the film is coming from.

            Entourage ultimately falls in line with the more mediocre seasons of the show.  It doesn’t get anywhere close to the heights of season 2 but isn’t the disaster that the final season was.


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